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System are Denmark’s longest surviving electronic “super group”. With a membership consisting of Thomas Knak (aka Opiate) Anders Remmer (aka Dub Tractor) and Jesper Skaaning (aka Acustic), their collective presence in Scandinavian electronica is all but impossible to ignore.
Formed in 1994 under the name Future 3 the group found instant recognition, not only in Denmark but also among international DJs such as Kruder & Dorfmeister, who listed Future 3's debut album among their top five albums of all time.
In 2002, after three Future 3 albums, the trio changed their name and signed to ultra-hip German label Scape, allowing the label’s then very clear minimalist profile to spill over into their sound.
Now, with their latest album, "B", the group have returned to the practices of their Future 3 days – when they were a major driving force behind the benchmark Copenhagen label, April Records – by working entirely alone in their choice of tracks.
On the record you can sense that their pioneering spirit has returned. Dark ambient moods mix with sublime melodies, dubstep rhythms and a timeless production that refers to both Phil Spector's "wall of sound" and King Tubby's dub experiments along with Brian Eno's soundscapes.
But in spite of these references "B" still comes across as a sound distinctly their own, borne out of a mature melancholy and a knack for getting electronic beats to swing organically.
System, being an electronic trio, are something rare and according to the group there is something very special about the interplay between three members which is lost if one is left out. "We complement each other in a good way. Duos are often very intense and intimate, where a third member provides some extra space. This gives a more relaxed atmosphere, while it is still clear, who's doing what” they tell.
While the roles on ”B” are as they always have been – with Skaaning on synths and keyboards, Remmer at the computer, and Knak as the aesthetician: listening, conducting and directing – there are innovations to be found too, with the album displaying a far more robust sound universe and a darker keynote.
There’s also a nod toward England, with the two-step and dubstep influences that were first displayed on System’s 2007 Tempo EP finding their place again in ”B” (the tracks Well Blank and Alpha, have been playlisted by dubstep-producers 2562 and Geiom). These harder elements often live together with a melodic side that hasn’t been heard in the trio since the Future 3 days. This is particularly evident on tracks like All, Drk, Would and Meadow And Stuff, which draw threads back to the '90s ambient music that Future 3 were at the forefront of in Denmark.
The three members of System have numerous solo albums behind them. Many of Anders Remmer's Dub Tractor releases (on City Centre Offices), Skaaning's Acustic output (most recently on Rump in 2005 with "Welcome") and Thomas Knak's Opiate releases (on April, Morr Music and Raster Noton [with Alva Noto as Opto]) have achieved classic status within the Scandinavian electronic music scene. Thomas Knak has also produced for Björk, Oh Land, and remixed for Efterklang, Ryuichi Sakamoto among others.
Over the last few years, the three System members and Ghost Society-singer Sara Savery have released music as People Press Play (their debut album was released on Morr Music in 2008), leaning towards the poppier end of the electronic spectrum. These traces can also be heard on ”B”, with the melodies given much more space than before in this context.
Release/catalogue number: RUMPCD013
Release date: Oct 4, 2010